Published: Jul 22, 2009 02:00 AM
Modified: Jul 20, 2009 08:19 PM
Durham Public Schools' teachers are about to get their own history lesson.
The school district has recived a grant from the Department of Education to give history teachers hands-on training to enhance instruction.
The government's Teaching American History Grants program provided the money for the district's new initiative, Learning and Integrating New Knowledge, or LINK.
LINK will take place over three years. Each year, 30 teachers will attend seminars on a subject and take a two-week summer trip related to it.
"We wanted it to link to modern issues so we can look at the historic perspective on issues our country still faces," said Kelli Thomas, the district's K-12 social studies director, who wrote the grant proposal.
The district will share the $800,000 grant with Franklin County Schools.
The first year's group will study colonial history and the development of democracy and take a summer trip to Williamsburg, Va., and Philadelphia, Pa. The second year will focus on the New Deal and the Great Depression. The teachers will take their summer trip to the Franklin Delanor Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y. Immigration and industrialization will make up the final year of the program, and the teachers will travel to New York City and visit Ellis Island, the New York Stock Exchange and the United Nations.
During the year, the teachers will attend monthly seminars led by leading historians. The seminars will include study of the U.S. Constitution, policies and themes during the Great Depression, World War II and immigration and industrialization. Seminars may be taught by historians at Duke, N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill.
"These trips will also give teachers the opportunity to integrate more primary source documents and help students to become more critical thinkers when they are looking at them," Thomas said.
Durham has 120 history teachers. There will be an application available for interested teachers to apply this fall. A mix of experienced and new teachers will be selected, said Chris Bennett, the assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum and instruction. The goal, he said, is to get representation from each high school at some point in the three years.
"Because of the state cuts, a lot of our potential development money is not there, so this allows us to continue very high-end professional development," Bennett said. "A grant like this allows us to build knowledge for our teachers and increase the rigor of instruction."
The hope is also that end-of-course test scores improve in the subject, Bennett said. In 2007, students across the district scored an average of 58.1 percent on the U.S. history exam.
The Teaching American History Grants program provides funding for districts nationwide. It's designed to raise student achievement by improving teachers' understanding and appreciation of traditional U.S. history. Last year, the group awarded 121 grants totaling $114.7 million.
"The Teaching American History grant is a fantastic opportunity for our high school history teachers to add texture and relevance in the teaching of U.S. history," said Superintendent Carl Harris. "We are excited by the potential this grant has to offer our teachers, with the ultimate outcome being students who are engaged in learning and who have a richer understanding and deeper appreciation for the history of our country."